I’m a big fan of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m participating again this year. For those not in the know, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo) happens every November. During NaNoWriMo, writers challenge themselves to write an entire novel, from Once Upon a Time right through to The End, in a month.
There are a couple of things I love about NaNO. With so many writers participating, there are plenty of writing groups that pop up to cheer each other on, do writing sprints, and hold each other accountable. Writing is usually a solo sport, so it’s great to have some company.
NaNo also helps writers get in the habit of writing. With such a short time to finish a novel, if you want to meet your goals, you have no choice but to plant your butt in a chair and write.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are some negative aspects to NaNo. One is that newbie authors don’t realize that writing The End is often only the beginning. Most books need extensive editing. With the ability to self-publish so easily, it’s not uncommon for these first drafts to hit the virtual shelves as final products.
There’s also the fact that not everyone who starts off doing NaNo manages to get to the finish line. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But what can be a real downer is the way we react to not finishing our NaNoWriMo novels before the month ends.
What Do You Make It Mean?
So here’s my question for those participating in NaNoWriMo: What do you make it mean when you don’t make your goals?
For me, I’m very happy to report that I have my writing process down pat, and I know I’m a slow and steady kind of girl. I strive to write daily, but I find the more stringent guidelines I put on myself–like word count or amount of time spent writing–the more resistant I get to writing. When I give into the resistance, I can go days without writing. Which means I don’t hit the goals I set for myself, and I spend lots of time beating myself up and overindulging in chocolate. (Okay, I tend to do that last one no matter what, so I can’t blame it on NaNo.) When I ease up on the rules, I’m actually pretty prolific and have little trouble getting to The End.
So why do NaNo? Mostly for the reasons I mentioned. I love the company. I like setting a challenge for myself. And I like the reminder that I need to stick to the habit of putting my butt in the chair and fingers to the keyboard.
But I do it with the understanding that I’m not going to get in the 1667 words every day. Some days I’ll write more, sometimes less, and sometimes I won’t write at all. When I don’t hit my goals, however, I don’t beat myself up. I don’t try to write double the next day (though often that’s exactly what happens without my even trying). And if I don’t get to write The End before we hit December 1st, I don’t allow it to mean I’m a failure. The funny thing is, once I focus on the fun and take the pressure off, I have no doubt it won’t take me long to get to the finish line.
What do you make NaNo mean? Do you treat it like a fun way to network with other writers and keep yourself motivated? Or do you beat yourself up and call yourself a failure when you don’t make your word count? I would love you to comment and tell me what you think of NaNoWriMo.